Other day I walked into Starbucks and I saw latin american physics friend sitting there with Iranian physics student. I walked up to them and said “Hola, Qué tal?“, since I am learning spanish for last 5-6 months, that’s how I say hello these days to spanish speaking friends. Then I looked at Iranian guy and said “Salam“.Technically I don’t know anything about Iranian/Persian. But from Bollywood movies and some hollywood movies, I knew Salam. Latin american friend laughed immediately and said “So now you are learning all languages to impress more girls?” I replied “I know how to say ‘Hi’, ‘how are you?’, ‘fine’, ‘bye’.. in 13-14 different languages.”
Later I thought about it and I came to this conclusion that I don’t learn these words from different languages to impress girls, it is just about the fun I get by flirting with languages. Just look at what I have learned from Chinese. Once my chinese officemate said “Things you say are said by uneducated people in China..” 😉 I asked how to say some decent things and I was checking my pronunciation and I got this reply “this is ok, but not as good as abusive words you have learned.”
Ok. Why do I call these experiences with languages as flirting? Because I am not a linguist. I don’t have good command over my mother tongue, Marathi or English which I studied for around 20 years (after first 10 years, it was just the language of instruction, I never took english literature classes) in school and college-university or Hindi which I studied for 3 years in the middle school and learned mostly through Bollywood movies and during my stay in Kanpur for undergrad. I can talk in these 3 languages for hours but my writings in these languages will be literary simple and will not have sophisticated, complex twists and turns. My skills are efficient only for the effective communication and professional requirements. I never wanted to polish them beyond that.
In high school, I took Sanskrit[Ancient Indian Language] classes for 5 years. But I always knew, I had just learned the rules of grammar and translations and my communication skills were/are really bad. One reason might be because nobody uses it in India anymore and now it is mostly studied for academic curiosity. For school as language classes, I had to learn Marathi till 10th grade, English till 12th, Hindi from 5th to 7th and Sanskrit from 8th to 12th. Methods of teaching followed in Indian schools are extremely annoying. Again I am not a linguist or educationalist to comment on these methods. Somehow personally learning new languages was not fun at all those days. Because one had to present his/her skills in very specific format following ridiculous rules (like essays should have at least ‘n’ words, they should always start with some poem or some famous quote, etc). As Einstein said, ‘The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education’.
I was not exposed well to Hindi academically, just 3 years of basic training. It was extremely bad and I used many Marathi/English words to make my sentences. My friends from 7th/8th grade still laugh at me when they remember those days. 🙂 Later my hindi got better, my friend who still remembers that embarrassing hindi conversation from 8th grade told me few years ago “wow! now your hindi is much better than all of us.”:) English was the language of instruction at my undergrad school, but hindi was the language widely used in dorms. Now I feel my hindi is as good as my Marathi/English.
In 2009, I came to the US for graduate school and as I always tell one of the greatest aspects of American grad schools is that you make so many international friends from US/Canada to Chile, from Spain to Russia, from China, Korea… You can closely observe so many cultures, people speak so many languages. I had few officemates from Chile and Argentina so I kept on hearing spanish a lot and slowly I started learning it. It is fun to learn new language especially when you know that you won’t have an exam and no matter how you do, people will appreciate your efforts for learning their language or at least saying few sentences. I am still at very basic stage of the spanish. Hopefully my spanish will reach the level of my English/Marathi/Hindi. In March 2013, I went to Italy and I bought a book to learn basics of Italian. I haven’t put enough efforts on Italian, but I have promised that one day I’ll put definite efforts to learn it.
When I understood that saying “Hi, How are you?” or “What’s up?” in that person’s language makes him/her really happy or at least it is good way to make person smile as we will never get the accent right. 🙂 So with this intension nothing more 😉 and curiosity, I started having conversations with Hebrew speaking people, Chinese speaking friends… And as of now, I can say at least “Hi”,”How are you?”, “Thank you”, “Bye” in English/Marathi/Hindi/Sanskrit/Bengali/Punjabi/Spanish/ Italian/Slovenian/Persian/Chinese/Hebrew. I would like to put those extra efforts and learn spanish/italian so that I can communicate. I might add 1-2 languages to learn based on circumstances. 🙂
We are talking about languages and flirting then why should we keep programming languages aside? I have done similar flirting with computer languages too. I have taken classes on Java and Fortran (Yes, even today they teach physics students that language, it is Sanskrit or Latin of Programming languages. :P) during my undergrad. On my own I have played with C/C++/Python. C++ is the one I am comfortable with and I want to learn Python more as I think future will speak Python. 😉 And I must say there is some fun in flirting with computer languages too. You don’t get to see happy human faces when you write a “Hello World!” program, but come on you can just add “:)”.